The biggest challenge this year has been student engagement. How do we flip the script and . . .
How do we engage students in the Fall?
Option 1: Update Your Textbook
The most obvious way to increase the energy of a class is to switch up the textbook. Unfortunately, due to their inherent structure, textbooks don’t often:
or teach skills.
Not to mention textbooks are expensive, and for the most part, students don’t even read them.
If your goal is engagement, a new textbook may be an incremental improvement but from our experience, it won’t make a dramatic difference.
Option 2: DIY Experiences
Experiential courses engage students far more than any textbook. If you’ve got the time to build a curriculum with your favorite experiences from around the web, you can create have an interactive class.
That said, classes comprised of ad hoc exercises have downsides especially in terms of:
Lack of cohesion / structure
Time spent re-inventing the wheel
Fortunately, there’s a way to get the best of both worlds…
When more than one instructor is teaching an intro course, different teaching approaches can lead to different class outcomes:
Students need a consistent experience regardless of their instructor.
Of course, each instructor also needs flexibility to leverage their areas of expertise.
ExEC Big Intro balances these needs by providing a well-documented, structured set of exercises,that each instructor can customize.
This approach provides a common course foundation (and an easy way to onboard new adjuncts) while enabling each instructor to play to their own strengths.
Passion + Experiences = Engagement
ExEC Big Intro’s first exercise helps students, especially those that don’t identify as entrepreneurs, discover their passions:
Students engage when they work on something they’re passionate about.
Once students know their passions, every subsequent exercise leverages them to make lessons relevant. For example, “entrepreneurial finance”, a topic that often shuts students down becomes an experience to answer the question:
“How do you finance your passion?“
Now, regardless of their major, students can see the relevance of entrepreneurial skills – even if they don’t identify as entrepreneurs (yet ;).
Assessment is always challenging but for large classes, it can be overwhelming.
One solution is more multiple-choice tests because they’re so easy to grade. Unfortunately, multiple-choice tests assess “reading and regurgitation” skills more than they do entrepreneurial skills.
On the other hand, reflective writing assignments can assess entrepreneurial skills, but aren’t feasible with hundreds of assignments to grade each term.
What we need is the best of both worlds: reflections that are easy to grade. With that goal in mind…
ExEC Big Intro has a new type of assignment: Reflective Quizzes.
Reflective Quizzes have three components:
An interactive experience
An open-ended reflection question
Automated support tools that challenge students to reflect deeply, and make it easy for instructors to assign full, partial and no credit
Here’s a demo of the Reflective Quizzes:
In addition to the student-side checks demonstrated above, the system can also give instructors assessment suggestions (e.g. full, partial, no credit) based on the content of the answer to make grading extremely fast.
With ExEC Big Intro…
Reflective assignments can replace multiple-choice quizzes, even in large classes.
Lowering Costs for Students
We all know how important it is to reduce textbook costs for students.
With the goal of providing experiential learning at a price that’s lower than traditional textbooks, ExEC Big Intro has a new pricing model that aims to make:
Experiential entrepreneurship accessible to all students.
Just like we teach our students that their businesses need to solve a problem for their customers:
Students are our customers and finding a job is their problem.
With data from thousands of students who’ve completed the Fears and Curiosities exercise, we know students’ biggest concerns about life after school revolve around jobs:
Can I find a job?
Will I like it?
Will I be good at it?
Will it pay enough?
If you want to attract new students to your program, the key is to:
Demonstrate that students in your program get great jobs.
Pitch days are fantastic opportunities to advertise the career opportunities your program provides. Below we’ll detail 3 steps to make make the most of yours:
Identify “high value” employers
Invite them to be guest judges
Invite prospective students to pitch day where they can see that students involved with your program get to connect with those employers
1. Identify High Value Employers
“High value” to us means employers that can satisfy the needs of our students in terms of supplying jobs that they’ll be good at, will enjoy doing, and will pay enough. Here are some tips on how to find those employers.
Ask Students Where They Want to Work
Ask students, “What companies would you be excited to work for?”, make a list, and constantly keep these companies top of mind because:
Every person you can introduce students to that works for one of those companies can help you recruit more students.
Students will often tell you they want to work for companies that are associated with brands they love:
Whatever your students tell you, search your LinkedIn connections and keep your eyes peeled for any connections you have to those companies.
Bonus Tip: Start Linking-In with all of your students now. Eventually some of them will get jobs at the companies your future students will love and pitch day will be a great opportunity to invite them back!
Talk to your Career Center
Talk to your career center on campus and ask them for lists of employers who visited previous career fairs / job days. Also, take a look at who is hiring on your school’s job board.
Search Job Boards
Look for job postings on:
Look for companies that are trying to hire students like yours and that can offer high-quality, good-paying jobs.
2. Invite the Employers to Pitch Day
Once you have a list of high value employers, pitch day is the perfect opportunity to create connections between them and not only your current, but your prospective students.
Find the “Right” People
Ideally, the people you invite from the employees are hiring managers: people with some say over who gets invited in for interviews. If you don’t know any, check LinkedIn, ask your career center, alumni office, or use the contact information associated with the job postings you found.
Invite them to Judge
Identify the people who you think students will respond most positively to, and invite them to be judges. Their companies and positions will be part of your marketing material for pitch day, so make the most of these coveted judging positions.
Side Note: Be sure to set judges expectations that you’re teaching a process (not just launching products).
Your judges might be familiar with a more traditional pitch day format, where people are pretending to know their future revenue, sales, growth, etc. You will need to conduct some basic training with your judges so they understand your students are learning a process and not necessarily working on launching investment-ready products or services. They will hear your students sharing what they did, what they learned, and what they’ll do differently next time (as opposed to, “This is a $10B market and if we capture just 1%…”).
Setting expectations ahead of time will be crucial to ensuring your judges (i.e. your students’ prospective employers) think highly of them during pitch day.
Invite Others Employers to Coach
You can only have a few judges, but you can engage more potential employers as coaches for your students. For those interested in coaching, prepare them with a brief summary of some projects that you think will be especially interesting for them. Your students should progress through multiple practice pitches, each of which is an opportunity for a coach to help them (and you!) create more impact:
Rough draft idea quick-pitch – students pitch the basics of their idea early in the course
Process pitch – a few weeks before pitch day, students practice sharing their journey (not the outcomes)
Dress rehearsal – a week before pitch day students practice their final pitch
Invite coaches to your pitch day and acknowledge their contributions. After the event, you and your students should send a follow-up handwritten note to coaches thanking them for investing their time and expertise.
Take every chance to deepen the connection with your students.
Sample Invite Emails
We’ve included some sample email invitations at the end of the article that you can use to recruit coaches and/or judges.
3. Make Pitch Day a School-Wide Event
Open Pitch Day to all Enrolled Students
Pitch Day isn’t just for your current students – it’s an opportunity to recruit your future students!
When prospective students see that your current entrepreneurship students are building close connections with employers they want to work for, they see your program as a way to solve their biggest problems.
Ask your students to present an invitation to student clubs around campus. Start with entrepreneurship-related clubs like:
and expand to other clubs in which your students are active. On any given campus there are hundreds of student clubs. Be strategic about those that have engaged members and related goals around employability and entrepreneurship. For instance, your students can present to entrepreneurship fraternities like Epsilon Nu Tau and Sigma Eta Pi, and professional business fraternities like Alpha Kappa Psi and Delta Sigma Pi.
Expand beyond the clubs and departments that are already intimately familiar with your program. Remember, your goal with a pitch day is to grow your program, so you want to reach out to students from areas you don’t normally engage with.
Use this as an opportunity to strategically connect with departments you don’t normally engage with. Maybe that’s the science departments. Or the foreign language departments. Or the fine art departments. Ask your students to present to their other classes, and to their friends majoring in these departments.
Give your students a chance to practice their pitching skills. Give your campus a chance to be excited by your program.
Equip students with a short template so messaging is consistent – keep to the point of “network with employers” as the main message.
Leverage the power of social media. Ask the university to share promotions on their official social media accounts. Incentivize students to share on their social media accounts by making it a deliverable of their pitching assignment (or extra credit).
And last, but certainly not least, take this opportunity to invite your university’s administration. Enable (and guide) your rock star students to handle these introductions – administrators will appreciate it more coming from students. Many will politely decline, but you can make them aware of what you are doing. And if they do show up, make sure they feel the energy of the connections you’re creating between students and employers.
Work with your enrollment/admissions office to invite prospective freshmen and their parents.
The enrollment/admissions team wants to highlight the best of your university for prospective freshmen. Enable them to invite these students to your pitch day – local students and their parents can attend physically, and others can join via Zoom.
This builds your funnel of freshmen students for your program by exciting them before they even get to campus! You can provide immense value to your enrollment/admissions office. Plus, universities struggle with retention and helping students find their way early on in their university careers. Pitch days can help to inspire and have students see future opportunities.
Provide food and drinks for everyone who attends
People get hungry and thirsty, and having food and drink at an event helps create spaces for connection. You don’t want the typical student event pizza and red Solo cups. But you also don’t want the alumni wine and charcuterie. Go for some very simple (and not messy) appetizers and finger foods along with a selection of soft drinks and water.
Food and beverages don’t always come cheap, especially as your guest list grows. If you have former students running or working with local food vendors, reach out to explore ways to incorporate and highlight their stories. You can also ask areas around campus to help fund this and receive recognition, given the presence of potential employers and donors. Ask your career center, a College of Business, enrollment/admissions office to share the cost and get sponsorship benefits of recognition at your pitch day event. See below for more tips on increasing funding.
During the event, highlight your program to prospective students in attendance
Throughout your event, highlight to prospective students the kind of learning experiences they will encounter in your entrepreneurship program.
In breaks between pitches, or as your judges are deliberating, talk to prospective students about how they too can learn how to pitch companies like they’re hearing. Also, share with them stories of the types of companies and jobs successful students from your program are currently engaged in (these stories will also resonate with alumni and enrollment/admissions staff in attendance).
During the event, facilitate connections between your judges and your high-performing students to grow your list of successful graduates from your program.
Most communities really want to give back to students– as educators we just need to figure out the in-roads. Many of the students at Western Washington University are food systems aficionados. One such student is Arlen Coiley. Arlen entered our entrepreneurship program with a great fervor for coffee- of all sorts- recycling hulls, creating compost, exfoliating soaps, you name it- this guy was ALL about coffee.
During his time in the program, Arlen pitched his coffee fervor to community members, who then hired him for events, invested in expanding his pop-up stand Handshake Coffee, and ultimately helped develop connections and now a vibrant restaurant called Storia Cucina.
Get Sample Emails for Inviting Judges and Coaches
Plus get a demo of how to map out external investors to help grow your program:
In our context here, Meg thinks of coaches and judges synonymously, and refers to them as coaches to help create a collaborative context. Therefore, the email below can be used for both coaches and judges.
Initial Invitation: Time to Coach Email
We are reaching that time in the quarter when our students are eagerly posed for your coaching! ANNND, it’s easier than ever to jump into coaching (dates) with our dynamic Zoom-based engagement! Learn more here (or read below!)
Oh, the ventures are exciting, and our students would love your input! Here are some highlights this quarter: (enter some sample projects!)
Covid-safe music festival- YES, it can be done!
Matchmaking and support platform for coaches
Fresh new food truck idea
Top-notch designers building brands for our internal student projects
Artists removing the starving from the equation to monetize and empower ….and so many more!
And what happens to our grads?
They work at Tesla, they start coaching businesses (with great customer bases), work as engineers and software developers, they run non-profits, they open local restaurants (Storia Cucina), they go to grad school, and the live more vibrant lives that they have authored. …And we’re just getting started. Opportunities to Coach!
Please tune in ½ an hour early (before student sessions) to learn about our unique approach to Entrepreneurship and Innovation Education.
Pitch Day 1! Watch first round “Dress Rehearsal” pitches and give developmental feedback- you’re seeing a work in progress- dive in with curiosity and support.
Pitch Day 2! Watch final pitches and provide developmental feedback. Streaming on Facebook Live and via Zoom [insert link]
Please let us know if you can join us through this quick form here [insert link to a Google Form for gathering basic contact information].
Once again, thank you for being such an important part of our entrepreneurial community! The comments about how you are helping students move forward are consistent and heartening. Your time and investment in these young entrepreneurs and innovators is impactful.
If you’re not subscribed to our newsletter yet, please join in for updates on amazing things that our students are up to or check us out on Instagram, Website or Facebook (etc.)
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Thank you from all of us! Teaching Team and Students
Mapping Out “Investors” in your Program
There are so many resources available to grow an entrepreneurship program. So many in fact, it can be hard to know all of them and be able to prioritize which ones you should be tapping into.
That’s where Meg Weber’s fantastic tip on network mapping comes in handy. Take a look at this video to brainstorm all of the assets in your community so you can find more people to invite to your Pitch Day!
Go Forth and Grow Your Program
You now have a playbook to use the pitch days we all do to grow your program.
It’s not just an event for your students to practice pitching.
It’s not just an event to give your students beer money.
This is your opportunity to make connections between your current students, your next cohort of students, and the people in the community who want to support those students.
Discord (a lot like Slack if you’re familiar with it) is an online tool for groups with:
Real-time text chat
Voice and video discussions
Small-group/team collaboration spaces
Integrations with lots of cool services (e.g. bots) that can provide features like gamification to increase interaction
For a quick sample of what Discord looks like when used with a class, check out this video:
Student Discussions on Discord vs LMS
Before we talk about why Discord can be so powerful, it’s helpful to understand why our LMS discussion boards, which are designed to solve this problem, don’t work:
Why LMS Discussions Don’t Work
They encourage communication with long paragraphs. Students prefer quick, real-time communication with short, SMS-length messages, emojis and gifs.
User interface is old and slow
No real-time capabilities (i.e. have to refresh to see updates, no voice or video discussions)
In short, LMS discussion boards may make sense to us as instructors because we’re used to communicating via email with full sentences and paragraphs. Our students on the other hand live on TikTok and Instagram. Asking them to use LMS discussion boards is like asking them to hand-write letters to one another.
Why Discord Works
Students Design Their Own Experience
In Discord, however, students can create their own character and their own emojis. In an LMS discussion board, students cannot develop and share their personalities.
Peer-to-peer communication seems more authentic because individuals can add individuality to their communications.
In addition, we know what feels natural to many students in online classes is having their cameras turned off. Discord takes full advantage of that with “voice only” channels where students can work in groups in real-time either during or outside of class with no expectation of having to turn their cameras on.
An Emoji is Worth 1,000 Words
Discord provides another natural communication tool for students: emojis. Look at any student’s texts and you see a plethora of emojis – it’s quick and it’s the language they prefer. Discord takes full advantage of this by offering a wide variety of emojis. You can even design your own emojis for certain situations, such as:
“$” for great business ideas
“A” and “F” letter grades to let students know when they’ve contributed great (and not-so-great) ideas to the conversation
Test tubes to represent an assumption that needs to be tested
Gamify The Student Experience
Another way to encourage richer communication among your students is to gamify the experience. LMS discussion boards can’t do that. Discord can, with bots.
Discord bots are built to perform any number of useful automated tasks. For instance, bots can reward students with “experience points” (“XP” in gaming and Discord terminology) that measure each student’s contribution to the discussion.
Students automatically earn XP:
Each time they post to a conversation and
The longer, more thoughtful their post, the more XP they get
It’s Easy For You to Grade Discussion
Grading discussions can be unbearable. Let Discord do it for you!
With bots such as Arcane, you can actually associate grades with different levels of XP. So if you had a participation requirement for your class, you could say students need:
75 XP for a “C” in participation
150 XP for a “B”
300 XP for an “A”
You can enable the bot to determine what students are participating and what students are not, and with some more advanced features, you can even reward levels based on the quality of posts.
Students Answer One Another’s Questions
With all of the gamification built-in, students will naturally want to answer each other’s questions to gain XP points and level up. Once they start engaging each other, their anxiety decreases, and their excitement increases as they learn together.
Students Get a Fast, Responsive Solution
Students struggling with homework or class details can post a question on your Discord server, and you or other students can respond lightning-fast, from a phone, with emojis! Students are notified of activity on their phone, unlike an LMS that students have to log into to see activity.
This will significantly minimize your time spent fielding basic questions about things like your syllabus and assignments and other basic course details.
Discord vs Slack
If you’re familiar with Slack, you can tell it has a lot in common with Discord. When it comes to teaching there are a few key differences that come to mind:
Slack offers “threaded messages” so you can reply to students and it makes it clear which message you’re replying to.
Slack is designed for business, which means its UI reflects that. That makes it a more applicable app for students to learn before they enter the job market, but also means it will often be less inviting for students to adopt while in school.
Discord will keep all of the messages on your server (Slack will only keep 10k on the free version).
Many students will already be on Discord.
Discord is easier to invite students to.
If you’d like to see a general overview of Slack vs Discord, check out this video:
Play with Discord
If you want to try out Discord, in 2 minutes you can have your own server and add gamification and levels!
Experiential courses produce great results, but it can be challenging to cover everything you want in 8, 10 or 12-week:
Same skills. Less time.
A compressed schedule doesn’t mean your students can’t develop many of the same skills as longer courses, but it does mean you need to be strategic with your course design. That’s because:
Customer interviews and business model experimentation skills take time to develop.
It’s tempting to compress these into a few days, but to really learn them takes practice. That means students may have the best experience by reducing the topics we cover and devoting more time to the highest ROI skills.
So while we’re always disappointed to see topics like pricing optimization go in shorter courses, there are a set of topics we always cover because they offer the best bang for the buck in terms of entrepreneurial mindset development:
Idea Generation: Great business ideas come from understanding customer’s needs
Business Modeling: How to identify your
Customer Discovery Interviews: The core of building a successful business is understanding a customer’s emotional needs
Design Thinking: The best way to understand your customer is to see the world from their perspective
Financial Modeling: Great business models must be financially viable and sustainable
MVPs: Minimum Viable Products focus on learning about business models.
Experimentation: How to identify and test the riskiest assumptions of a business model
Pitching & Storytelling: How to create an emotionally driven narrative
Example 8-Week Syllabus
Below you’ll find an 8-week sample syllabus you can use if you teach:
Example 10-Week Syllabus
If you teach on the quarter system, feel free to use this 10-week sample syllabus:
Example 12-week Syllabus
Our 12-week syllabus is perfect for our friends in Canada!
Get the Sample Syllabi
Whether you’re teaching an 8, 10, 12-week course, grab a syllabus that brings exciting, experiential learning to your students here.
Split it Across Two Classes
Another option is to divide the topics across two courses. A number of the schools we work with take our 15-week schedule and do just that.
With ExEC, students get access for life, so splitting the material across two classes can save them money.
Typically that looks like:
An intro course that focuses on “Why (and How) to Find Problems Worth Solving”
A new venture creation course on “How to Find Solutions Worth Building”
The benefit of this approach is that students get plenty of time to develop both sets of skills.
Teaching in Summer?
Check out ExEC, a structured, experiential curriculum that’s flexible enough to work online, in-person, or both with any length of class.
In an upcoming post, we will share tips and tricks to create engaging communication using Discord!
Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.
If you end your entrepreneurship class by having students pitch their companies, you may have seen:
A handful of pitches are great, but most are…meh.
We’ve had luck improving the overall quality of pitches for all students by updating what we want students to pitch.
Shark Tank Pitches vs Process Pitches
Most instructors run some form of Shark Tank, Dragon’s Den, or investor-oriented pitches, students try to convince judges the business model they’ve been working on is worth investing in.
We’ll refer to these as “Shark Tank” pitches.
Shark Tank Pitch Pros
In the typical Shark Tank-style pitch, students experience a sense of urgency and have to perform in a high-stakes environment. This pressure is a good introduction to how entrepreneurship feels. This approach increases competition among students which can yield some improved results for some, albeit not all, students.
Speaking of competition, Shark Tank pitches are nice in that they help prepare students for other competitions – idea pitch competitions, business plan competitions, and so on. Students who perform well in this environment can travel to other campuses and communities and secure prize money to further their idea.
Finally, this format makes it easy to invite community stakeholders into your class experience. Most people are familiar with Shark Tank and this style of pitch so it’s relatively efficient to onboard judges to create a novel feedback experience for your students. This can also help build community stakeholder participation in your entrepreneurship program, which will benefit students far beyond this one pitch contest experience.
Shark Tank Pitch Cons
Penalizes students who test/invalidate their hypotheses
Disadvantages students interested in small, family, or social businesses
Values judges’ opinions over customers’
There are, of course, drawbacks to this investor-oriented pitch approach. Requiring students to present a “successful” business model incentivizes students to present an overly optimistic perspective in hopes of impressing the judges (or at least getting a good grade).
Investor-oriented pitches encourage students to pretend they’ve found a successful business model, even when they haven’t learned how.
The real skills we’re teaching in entrepreneurship classes revolved around how to find a successful business model, not how to pretend you’ve found one. Not only does this encourage students to skew the way they present their business, but it also puts students who invalidate their business model assumptions at a big disadvantage – even though that’s arguably the most important skill to learn.
Students who discovered through customer interviews or experiments that their businesses won’t work often have learned more about entrepreneurship than students who ignore what their customers are saying.
Is it a good idea to penalize students who learned how to prove their own assumptions wrong?
The Shark Tank pitch approach also disadvantages students who are interested in businesses that aren’t attractive to investors, such as small businesses, family businesses, social enterprises, and intrapreneurship. These are all very viable career paths for entrepreneurship students, but with this pitch format, students pursuing these types of business ideas often won’t be as engaged.
Finally, the Shark Tank approach’s most important shortcoming is that it elevates the judges’ opinions over those of real customers. When we bring in judges to determine whose business model will be most successful, we’re reinforcing the narrative that success will be determined by opinions from “inside the building”, as opposed to “outside the building” where real customers are.
Neither we nor our judges can predict which companies will succeed (I was shocked the Airbnb worked as well as it did). The only people who know what will succeed are customers, so it’s our job to teach students how to test their business models with customers – not to pick the winners and losers ourselves.
An Alternative: The Process Pitch
To optimize the classic pitch day in a way that focused on skill-build and engages all students, we’ve found success shifting away from Shark Tank pitches, to what we call “process pitches.”
During a process pitch, the goal isn’t to convince anyone you’ve found a successful business model. Instead, the goal is to convince judges that:
You’ve learned a process for finding successful business models.
To do that students walk through the iterations of their business model canvases throughout the course, telling the story of:
What assumptions they made along the way
How they tested those assumptions
What they changed in their business model as a result
What assumptions they want to test next
Process Pitch Pros and Cons
Less intuitive to external stakeholders
Emphasizes skill development
Values testing business models “outside the building”
Engages all students in the process
As with the Shark Tank approach, a process pitch approach has its pros and cons. On the cons side, this model won’t be familiar to any external judges, so you’ll want to help them understand the goals of this type of pitch. Suggestions on how to do that in the judging sheet below.
On the pros side, the process pitch focuses students on skill acquisition: business modeling, testing business model assumptions, customer interviews, etc.. Because students are assessed on their process, they are incentivized to test their business model and report out accurate results, instead of skewing data to look more successful than they were.
The greatest benefit to students of this approach is the celebration of a growth mindset and learning from failure. This approach teaches students to see failure as a way to find success – opposed to seeing failure as something that should be avoided like in Shark Tank pitches.
Finally, this approach is inclusive of all students. With a focus on the learning process instead of a business outcome, all students can fully engage regardless of the type of venture they’re looking to build including social enterprises, small and family businesses, non-profits, etc.
Process Pitch Best Practices
It may not be intuitive how to conduct a process pitch, so we’ll share our best practices below.
In process pitches, students should demonstrate:
They understand the business model validation process.
They applied that process and evolved their business model based on experimentation.
The entire process was led by their customers’ emotional needs/problems.
When it comes to judging, the emphasis is on the students’ journey, not their outcome. The goal is not success or failure but what they learned during the process. You want students to tell the story of the race, not just to focus on crossing the finish line.
Consider showing this sample presentation from Owlet – just the first 2:33 minutes shows students what you expect from them. In this great example, these students did a fantastic job talking about the pivots they made in their journey.
Judging the Process Pitch
For a process pitch, students should keep them short in length (3-5 minutes) and give judges a chance to ask follow-up questions related to the individual/team process. It is important to de-emphasize the public speaking aspects of this exercise for students.
In this last week of class, you want students focusing more on internalizing their takeaways from the validation process than you do worrying about their presentation technique.
Judging process pitches can be confusing for people used to watching and judging Shark Tank-style pitches. We built a scoresheet and onboarding process to combat this that you can access below.
It’s crucial your judges are familiar with concepts like:
Customer emotions/problems should be the central focus of a business model.
The importance of identifying business model assumptions.
Why and how teams should test their assumptions.
How teams leverage the results of experiments is more important than whether the experiment succeeded.
How much the team can replicate the process in the future is far more important than how many validated boxes they have in their business model (i.e., showing off a theoretical success).
While the judging score sheet includes a primer on business model validation, you’ll want to make sure judges have a solid understanding of these principles. If they don’t you’ll risk teams getting confusing/conflicting feedback that focuses more on products than process.
One way to make sure judges understand what your students will be pitching is to send them the Owlet video above. Just as a heads up, since judges will only ask process-focused questions, these questions should sound more like:
WHY did you…?
HOW did you…?
On the other hand, judges should stay away from questions focused on the product/idea/market that would sound more like:
WHAT is your…?
Make sure this concept is clear for the invited judges by holding Q&A sessions for your judges.
Here are some specific questions judges can ask to stay focused on the process:
How did your business model changed during the course?
What role did customer emotions play in influencing your business model?
What role did experimentation play in changing your business model throughout the course?
How would you utilize customer emotions and experimentation differently the next time you test a business model (i.e., how you would improve)?
Get the Process Pitching Scoresheet
We’ve created a detailed scoresheet for judging process pitches to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.
All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!
In an upcoming post, Meg Weber, the guru of the entrepreneurship program at Western Washington University, will share tips for using pitch days to grow your entrepreneurship program!
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Want 30+ more engaging exercises?
Video Assignments: More Reflection (and Less Grading)
Quizzes have no place in an entrepreneurship class. Video assignments do!
Entrepreneurship is about developing a mindset and a set of skills; quizzes cannot assess either of those. Instead, the recommended tools for assessing entrepreneurship students are reflective assignments.
Of course, quizzes are faster to grade than traditional written reflections, so quizzes are still common. Fortunately, there’s a better way. There’s a way for students to quickly reflect on the experiences they’ve had in class, multiple times throughout the course, that will take you minutes, not hours to grade.
Structured video reflections: a fast, and rigorous way to assess entrepreneurship students.
Video Reflections Take Less Time
Traditional written reflections take a long time to grade because they require you to read lengthy responses from every student in your class, and then grade what you’ve read.
Video reflections take less of your time because:
Students are required to keep them short. Typically 1 – 3 minutes
You can play them back at double-speed
You can grade while you’re watching
You can literally…
Grade video reflections in 30 – 90 seconds.
Example Reflection Video & Rubric
Enter your teaching email address below to see:
A sample video reflection
Rubric for grading one
Demo of what it looks like to grade in your LMS
Keys for successful video reflections
The Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum we produce uses video reflections extensively to help students document the evolution of their business models. For example, in the first iteration of their business model canvas, they hypothesize their:
Value proposition and
They also demonstrate how they developed those hypotheses, and reflect on why they are important entrepreneurial steps to take. Below is a sample video reflection submission.
Demo of Grading in Canvas
Below you can see how efficient it is to grade a submission in Canvas. With just a few clicks you are already providing feedback, both quantitative and qualitative. Our professors appreciate how quickly they can digest and assess students’ work. Students appreciate getting feedback quickly, so they can move forward before they lose momentum.
Tips for Successful Reflection Videos
Video reflections will save you a lot of time in the long run, but they require some prep work upfront:
Provide a lot of structure. You’ll want to tell students exactly the questions you want them to answer in their reflections, and how much time you’d recommend they spend answering each question. Here’s an example of some of the guidance we give to ExEC students on the submission above:
“You have a time limit of 2 minutes for this video presentation.
It is recommended that you use your time roughly as follows:
About 15 seconds to summarize your Customer Segment and Problem (i.e. Value Proposition) hypotheses.
About 45 seconds (or less) to describe how you believe your Early Adopters behave and the Channels where you assume you can find them. You can present using this mental model:
“I think our Early Adopters (describe their behaviors), and as a result, I should be able to see them (describe their Externally Observable Behaviors), so I assume I can find and interview them (describe your channels).”
About 30 seconds to share your thoughts and learnings about the entrepreneurial steps you’ve taken so far.
About 30 seconds to explain why an entrepreneur would/should take the following steps.”
Provide examples. Your students likely won’t have done this kind of assignment before so you’ll want to show them an example video of precisely what they should be shooting for.
Teach them how to use Loom. Loom is an amazing tool, a Google Chrome extension that is super simple to use. Thousands of ExEC students have used it on Mac and PC to present their process, and hundreds of faculty use it to quickly provide feedback to those students (because it allows you to play videos back at double speed!). Loom offers an expanded educational version that allows for longer feedback videos for those times when you want to go really deep with your feedback.
Keep them short. As mentioned before, you want to keep them short (1 – 3 minutes). Short videos require students to practice presenting concisely (an extremely important skill for entrepreneurs), and it means you’ll spend less time grading.
Create an objective rubric. Let students know ahead of time exactly how you will grade them. If you provide students a subjective rubric, it causes anxiety because they don’t know what you expect, and aren’t sure they are delivering the “right” elements or answers. Instead, provide an objective rubric so students know what you expect and focus on the details that will help them make progress in their process. Click here for an example rubric like the one below:
Allow students to share additional materials. When students submit a video reflection, they should include a link to any written work that provides more details on their experiences. For instance, as they are iterating on their business model canvas, they provide a link to slides of their multiple canvases in addition to their video link.
Video Reflection Bonuses
In addition to the time savings, there are several added benefits to using video reflections:
Students generally prefer them. Students naturally consume and create video content and we often get comments from students asking why they can’t do this in all of their classes. Offering them the opportunity to explain their process by talking to their phone will result in happier (i.e., more engaged) students.
Students get to practice speaking concisely. Communicating efficiently is an incredibly important skill, no matter whether students become entrepreneurs or not. These 1 -3 minute videos help students develop more effective communication skills.
Students can’t get a “free-ride” on video assignments. Students share quiz questions and written assignments can be “inspired” by other students, but it’s nearly impossible for a student to fake their way through a video recording. Just the act of speaking their reflections out loud helps them internalize their experiences and lesson learned along the way.
Below are our suggestions for using hand-drawn worksheets, breakout rooms, and supplies found around the house to update the Wallet Project for online synchronous classes.
When to Use This Exercise
Since the Wallet Project is best used as a way to introduce students to design thinking, we recommend running it:
Before students conduct customer interviews or
Before students start doing solution ideation or
At any time during a creativity and innovation course
Design Thinking: Designing an Ideal Wallet
Before Class: Ask Students to Gather Supplies
One of the most fun parts of this exercise is that students will get to build low fidelity prototypes of their new wallet solutions. In preparation, let students know that they should come to class with as many of the following items as they can.
Cardboard box, blank paper, and/or Post-It notes
Scissors or a utility knife
Tape, paper clips, and/or a stapler
String and/or rubber bands
Markers and/or colored pens
Anything else you want to suggest
Note: Not all students will have access to the same supplies, and that this might create some inequity in experiencing this activity. We encourage you to create a large list of the possible supplies your particular student population may have access to.
The goal is for students to have some supplies readily available to create a makeshift prototype.
Step 1: The Wrong Approach
The beginning of this exercise starts begins with a “False Start” where you’ll tell students:
“Instead of just telling you about design thinking, I want to immediately have you jump right in and experience it for yourself. You’re going to do a design project for about the next hour. Ready? Let’s go!”
To help facilitate the experience, in the lesson plan below we have links to worksheets students can print out ahead of time:
If any of your students don’t have access to a printer, ask them to have 6 sheets of blank (or lined) paper ready so they can sketch out the boxes of each worksheet – they’re all really simple to duplicate by hand.
Tell students their goal is to individually come up with some ideas for the “ideal” wallet, and specifically to draw one idea for a better wallet in 3 minutes.
It’s normal for students to feel stuck and delay putting anything down on paper. Reminding them of the time they have left can push them to start, so remind students after each minute expires.
After the 3 minutes expires, ask students to share how they felt during the experience. Most will have had a negative experience. Tell them they just experienced a typical problem-solving approach, being guided by their own opinions and with a solution in mind.
Let them know they will now learn a better approach, called “human-centered design thinking.”
Step 2: An Empathetic Approach
Direct students to the “Your New Mission” and pair them up in breakout rooms to design something useful for their partner.
Again remind students who do not have a printed worksheet to use a blank sheet of paper to draw two boxes to mimic the worksheet which you can show via screen sharing.
Tell students the most important part of designing for someone is to gain empathy. Students will do this by having a conversation with their partner, which you can facilitate in an online class using breakout rooms.
Before you send students to their breakout rooms, let them know that:
Partner A has 4 minutes to interview Partner B while Partner B meticulously shares the contents of their wallet with Partner A.
Then they switch and Partner B interviews Partner A while Partner A meticulously shares the contents of their wallet with Partner B.
If their partner is having technical difficulties in the breakout room, or simply doesn’t show up after 60 seconds, having them leave their breakout room and join you in the main room where you can assign them to another breakout room (or partner with them yourself if you have an odd number of students).
Encourage partners to ask questions about when their partner carries a wallet, why they have particular things in there, and to make notes of things they find interesting or surprising.
Students make notes in the “Interview” column of their worksheet.
Over the next 30 minutes, students will learn:
That what is important for them to discover is what is important to their customer
To design solutions specifically related to their customers’ emotional needs
To prototype their design with simple household materials and
To gather customer feedback on prototypes
As a result, after doing this exercise, students will know how to develop powerful solutions for customers because they can empathize with the person or people for whom they are designing solutions.
The Full Lesson Plan
If you want to bring design thinking into your online class and introduce students to a methodology to engage real people to help them ground their design decisions…
Get the “Design the Ideal Wallet [Online Version]” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Design the Ideal Wallet [Online Version]” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.
All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!
In an upcoming post, we will share tools to enable efficient communications with students so you don’t have to pull your hair out over LMS discussion boards anymore!
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